Bartolome de las Casas was born in Seville around 1484. At the age of eighteen he left for the New World, where he participated in the conquest of Cuba and witnessed the first full-scale massacre of an Indian community. He became a priest and entered the Dominican order. He dedicated himself to the protection and defence of the Indians.
Anthony Pagden teaches in the Department of History at John Hopkins University, Baltimore. He is the author of The Fall of Natural Man and Spanish Imperialism and the Political Imagination.
Nigel Griffin read modern languages at Oxford and was a Fellow of New College in the 1970s. He now concentrates on writing and translating and has worked for both the UN and the World Bank.
The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.
Bernal Díaz del Castillo, himself a soldier under Cortes, presents a fascinatingly detailed description of the Spanish landing in Mexico in 1520 and their amazement at the city, the exploitation of the natives for gold and other treasures, the expulsion and flight of the Spaniards, their regrouping and eventual capture of the Aztec capital.